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Why we shiver and don’t complain

Why do many tenants suffer in silence in inadequately heated apartments during our coldest months of the year? Here are five common misconceptions about apartment heating issues that often act as roadblocks to resolving heating problems.

1. A cold apartment automatically indicates a cold-hearted landlord. Not necessarily. A landlord living away from the property may be unaware of the problem, or a novice landlord may be ignorant of how to most effectively operate your building’s heating equipment. Before any landlord can deal with a heating problem, it has to be clearly and accurately communicated to him or her by tenants.

2. Landlords are only obligated to heat apartments during certain months of the year. The City of Montreal Housing Code states that if heating is included in your lease, your landlord must maintain your apartment’s temperature at not less than 21 degrees Celcius or 71 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.

3. My landlord says the building is warm enough, but I’m shivering. I can’t prove my apartment is too cold, because it’s his word against mine. Start keeping a temperature log, over a number of days, of the temperature inside your apartment and outdoors. Such a written record can be a useful form of evidence at a rental board hearing. To obtain an accurate indoor temperature reading, locate a thermometer near the centre of a room, one metre off the floor. Send your landlord a registered letter explaining your heating problem and noting his responsibility to honour the heating requirement of your lease. Include your temperature log. Should your landlord fail to rectify the problem you can forward a copy of your letter to City of Montreal inspectors, who will visit your apartment building and advocate for adequate heat on your behalf. Any reliable witness can help provide evidence at a rental board hearing.

4. The rental board is far too busy and overloaded with cases to help me with my heating problem. It’s true that tenants can wait a long time for rental board hearings to be scheduled, but if your apartment is extremely cold you can ask that your case be considered urgent and heard at an earlier date. Additionally, the existence of a City inspector’s report can be mentioned in your application, and this will speed up obtaining a hearing.

While waiting for your hearing, consider purchasing space heaters as a temporary heating measure, and the rental board will require that your landlord pay for the extra electricity consumed. A word of caution: Space heaters may place a serious strain on the wiring of older buildings, posing a fire risk. Inspectors from the Régie du batiment du Québec will come and examine the wiring of older buildings to determine if electrical equipment is up to standard to allow the safe use of space heaters. This service is free. Finally, the rental board can award a rent decrease for the months you were without adequate heating. 5. My landlord is aggressive and I fear he will take reprisals against me if I complain to authorities.

Aggressive people have a way of making others feel isolated and vulnerable. But as a tenant you are not alone. The following community organizations and offices can provide you with the information and support you will need to take a proactive and assertive stance in negotiating with your landlord for adequate heating.

Arnold Bennett’s Housing Hotline: 514-990-0190

City of Montreal Permits and Inspections, Borough of Côte des Neiges / NDG: 514-872-5160

Elder Abuse Info-line: 514-489-2287

NDG Senior Citizens’ Council: 514-487-1311

The Organization for Housing Education and Information of Côte des Neiges: 514-738-0101

Project Genesis: 514-738-2036

Régie du batiment du Québec: 514-873-0976;

Régie du logement (Rental Board): 514-873-2245;



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